Magazine article Public Finance

Ask the Family

Magazine article Public Finance

Ask the Family

Article excerpt

There is no doubt that children - and the childcare dilemma - are set to be a central battleground in the forthcoming election.

Indeed, with the intervention of TV chef Jamie Oliver (or Sir Jamie, as some would like to see) the cheap and not-so-cheerful nature of England's school meals is finally being addressed. Whether a rise from the frightening 37p per meal to 50p or 60p will do the trick, only time will tell.

But the main political dish is certainly childcare provision, as our cover feature on pages 22-25 makes clear. The governments menu includes proposals to extend paid maternity leave from six to nine months, to allow mothers to transfer leave to fathers and to widen the right to request flexible working.

While the prime minister has been courting the female vote by appearing on Woman's Hour, the chancellor used last month's Budget to deliver a £1bn boost to 'hard-working families'.

Not to be outdone, the Tories attempted to divert attention from their little local difficulty by serving up their new family-friendly policies on Easter Monday. A government led by Michael Howard would offer special payments to parents who use family, friends or neighbours to look after their children. …

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